Restaurant Review – La Crosta Pizzeria

This week took me to a fantastic new spot: La Crosta Pizzeria! This charming spot is located at 2360 N Lincoln Ave and was perfect for a Friday night out with friends. It has a lovely, warm atmosphere. Small two and four-top tables are scattered about the restaurant, there’s a lovely long bar, and soft lights hang above each table. We knew we wanted to start with an appetizer, so we chose the Bruschetta: tomato, parmagiano, garlic, basil, balsamic, and e.v.o.o on a crostini. It was so tasty! The tomatoes were super fresh and the seasoning was just right. The crostini was lovely and crisp on the outside and squishy on the inside. A perfect way to start our meal! We also shared a House Salad: mixed greens, Roma tomato, nostralina black olives, and red onion topped with shaved parmigiana and a house lemon vinaigrette. All of the vegetables were very fresh and the lemon vinaigrette was light, tangy, and delicious. For four people, we shared three pizzas, which was just the right amount. We chose the Calatella: Calabrese sopressata and fresh basil leaves topped with scoops of creamy Stacciatella cheese; the Due Carne: barese sausage and sopressata (your choice of mild or spicy); and the Classico Pepperoni: caramelized pepperoni medallions, fresh mozzarella, and crushed baresi tomatoes. All three were magnificent. The crust was perfect. The bottom was cracker thin and crispy, but the edges were wonderfully soft. It was hard to choose, but my favorite was the Calatella. The sopressata was delicious and spicy and the spreadable cheese was just wonderful. It melted in my mouth! All three were done so well, but the Calatella was definitely a stand out for me. We ended our meal with a cannoli to share. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cannoli before, but it was so good! It was stuffed with cream all the way through and had so many pistachios. I loved it! I cannot wait to come and try more pizzas here- this is definitely on my must-go-back list. 

La Crosta is open Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 4 to 10 pm. They are closed on Tuesdays. They are also open Fridays from 4 to 11 pm and Saturdays from 12 noon to 11 pm. They do take reservations and are available for both takeout and delivery. Find more information on their website.

RACHEL HOOVLER & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

Prep Your Budget For Buying A Home

Choosing to enter the home buying process is likely the largest financial decision you will make in your lifetime, so it is not one that should be taken lightly. Ensuring that your other current and upcoming financial responsibilities are under control is crucial to having a smooth transaction and being able to enjoy your investment fully. These tips will help you prepare your budget for purchasing your dream home.

Calculate your monthly income. How much money is coming in every month? This is the amount that is left after taxes, health insurance, and retirement savings are taken out of your monthly salary.

Understand your current expenses. Make a list of all your current recurring expenses month to month. Don’t forget to factor in things like loan payments, gym memberships, car maintenance, groceries, self-care appointments, etc.

Determine where you can find savings. Are there any ongoing memberships or subscriptions you don’t use that can be canceled? Can you cut out your daily coffee or eating out lunch? Make these adjustments right away to start saving more.

Boost your financial standing. Before buying a home, it is recommended that you dedicate extra effort to paying off other debts and boosting your credit score. Taking these steps will help you during the loan approval process.

Don’t move finances around. Your lender will review your bank statements during the pre-approval process and then again during underwriting. Any large withdrawals or deposits may throw a red flag so try to avoid these when possible. If you can’t, make sure you have proper documentation to explain the movement of money.

Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Thanksgiving Countdown

So you’ve decided to host Thanksgiving this year! Are you in panic mode yet? If this is your first time hosting the big dinner, don’t worry. With a bit of planning, you can pull off Thanksgiving with minimum work and worry. It’s just about two weeks until the holiday. There are many things you can do now to make Thanksgiving week a breeze.

Number one: schedule the house cleaning. Yes, it costs a bit- but not as much as you think. The time it will save you is well worth the price. Besides they do a great job! Get referrals from friends or family. We can help too; we have great house cleaners to send your way. 

Make a master list. I’m a paper person so I use a legal pad, but any electronic device will do and then you can save it. If you can, have guests bring one item each from the menu: a dessert, appetizer, or side dish. Start with creating your menu. List each dish on the left with every ingredient and the amount needed on the right. Include spices (make sure your spices are fresh), milk, butter, etc. Check off things you already have; circle or underline items you need. This will be your shopping list too. Buy as many non-perishables as you can this week and check them off. It’s a good idea to buy your liquor now too. Prices are good all month. Do a signature drink you can make before guests arrive. Have cider and sparkling water on hand along with soft drinks as a non-alcoholic alternative. Order your fresh turkey now; some specialty birds sell out quickly. I stick with a frozen Butterball. I’ve tried others but in my opinion, the fancy brands are not worth the price. 

Clear off the dining room table. Gather your serving pieces for each dish; utensils too! Make sure you have utensils for those bringing dishes also. Are you having a sit-down dinner or buffet? Guests will need TV trays to eat a big dinner. Make sure you have enough, along with extra folding chairs. If you are doing a buffet, you will need chafing dishes. Amazon and Walmart have sets around $100 but you can also rent or borrow from someone. Now is a good time to upgrade your current cooking tools to ease the cooking process. 

Next week we’ll talk about preparation for the week before the big meal.

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

Top Tips For Decorating With Area Rugs

Looking for a fun way to bring an additional pop of color or design to a room with minimal time or money investment? Consider trying out an amazing area rug! Check out these tips for revamping your space with this fun decor piece.

Consider your lifestyle. Do you have two dogs and a cat? A couple of young kiddos running around? You’ll want to take these factors into consideration. Choose a dark color tone to help hid inevitable stains and make sure the material you choose is easy to clean.

Choose the right size. Expert interior designers recommend choosing a rug that is just slightly smaller than the area covered by furniture, leaving enough space between it and the walls for the flooring to still shine through.

Try these trends. Big bold patterns and rich colors are trending in the interior design space right now and rugs are no different. Try using one as the focal point of the room and select neutral-colored furniture to complement it. Build around the rug. Find a rug that makes a big statement and then builds the room around it. Select furniture placement, accent pieces, and colors based on what ties into it. Define the area.

Looking for a way to create two different areas within a single room? Rugs can help you achieve this by defining where one area begins and other starts, such as a reading nook and dining area. Layer multiple. This daring new trend has just popped up on the interior design circuit. Choose two rugs of different shapes and textures and layer them to create depth and a unique focal point.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Season of Thanks Includes Veteran’s Day Weekend!

As we continue our journey towards Thanksgiving during this season of thanks, this weekend offers a variety of fun, exciting, and festive fall events to enjoy!  It also includes Veteran’s Day (Monday) for an extended weekend (for most of us)!!

The Wrigleyville Cider Fest at Rizzo’s Bar and Inn (3658 N. Clark St.) in the Wrigleyville neighborhood is this Saturday from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.  Join for an afternoon of sampling seven different ciders, a Green Apple Cocktail, and a delicious Rizzo’s food buffet.  There’s also an opportunity to win different prizes and brand merch such as Bulls tickets, gift cards to local establishments, several pairs of TBOX tickets, and more!  All this for a $10 entry fee!!

Are you ready for the 17th annual Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer?  The world’s largest and most prestigious barrel-aged beer festival and competition is returning to the UIC Forum (725 W. Roosevelt Rd.) in the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood this Friday (6 p.m.-10 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.-5 p.m. & 6 p.m.-10 p.m.).  Over 200 craft breweries from across the United States will showcase their rarest, most innovative wood and barrel-aged brews for top honors in The National Barrel Aged Beer Competition!  Each ticket holder is allowed access into the event, receives a complimentary glass, a FoBAB booklet, and 20 samples!!

Looking for something more challenging?  Head on over to the Art Institute (111 S. Michigan Ave.) in The Loop this Saturday (1 p.m.) for Watson Adventures’ Escape from the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt!  You’ve been poisoned!  But there’s a box that holds the antidote.  All you must do is search the nooks and crannies of the museum to find answers to devilishly tricky questions about works of art to figure out the combination to the box.  It’s simple: solve the puzzle, save your life!  Can you unlock the box and escape with your life?

On Saturday, the Chicago Printers Guild will hold its 4th iteration of the Chicago Printers Guild Publishers Fair at Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) in the Roscoe Village neighborhood.  Over 30 printmakers will be on hand to sell their self-published print work and provide you a unique opportunity to meet with them.  Attendees can leave with their purchased, original piece of artwork direct from the hands that created it!  Framing is also available on site from The Frame Shop, if you wish to have your artwork framed.  Enjoy all of this with drinks stirred by the bartenders at Constellation and tunes spun by CHIRP Radio DJs!!

The German International School Chicago (1726 W. Berteau Ave.) in the Lakeview neighborhood cordially invites you to their annual Laternenfest & St. Martin’s Parade on Saturday (3 p.m.-9 p.m.).  Children of all ages are welcome to this fun-filled fall celebration.  It starts with lantern making (admission includes a lantern kit) and Kaffee & Kuchen (coffee & cake) in the afternoon; followed by a lantern parade with live music at dusk, more entertainment, and a German-style dinner in the evening!

Finally, the entire City will honor local and national veterans during this year’s Veterans Day Ceremony at Soldier Field, Gate O (1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.) in the South Loop on Monday at 11 a.m. (doors open 10 a.m.).  The ceremony will take place in front of the statue of Doughboy, an informal term for a member of the United States Army of Marine Corps- especially members of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.  The keynote address will be delivered by Brigadier General Kris A. Belanger, 85th Army Reserve Support Command.  Be sure to take a moment on Monday to honor and thank our Veterans for their service and sacrifice to protect our freedom!

Enjoy Your Journey During this Season of Thanks!

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Oak Park

Lakeview: It’s not too early to think about Christmas! The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce presents its Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony on Tuesday, December 3 at 6:30 pm. There will be complimentary hot drinks, a live ice carving demonstration, music from a live caroling quartet, photos with Santa, and more. The event is 100% free and open to the public! For more information, click here.

Lincoln Park: Get your holiday shopping on at the Holiday Market at Lincoln Park Zoo! The market is held on Tuesday December 3 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. This is an amazing collection of local artisans, shops, and boutiques. The event is just $10 to attend ($8 for Lincoln Park Zoo members). Children 12 months and under have free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket. You can ride for free on the Endangered Species Carousel until 9:15 pm, visit and take photos with Santa, listen to music on the main stage, hear holiday carolers throughout the zoo, see a fabulous light show set to holiday songs, and enjoy complimentary gift wrapping. There will be festive drinks including Dirty Snowman Irish Coffee, Mrs. Claus’ Apple Cider, Ho-Ho-Ho-t Chocolate, Snowy’s Spiked Slushies, and many more. Purchase your tickets here now!

Bucktown and Wicker Park: Remedy Bar Chicago is hosting a retro “Black Wednesday Blacklight Party” as part of their weekly Weird Wednesdays series on November 27. Kick off your Thanksgiving weekend with a night of blacklights, glow sticks, blacklight posters, and more. This is a 21 and up event and there is no cover. Drink specials include a half-off everything happy hour, as well as a Miller High life and Evan Williams shot for $8 all night. Find more information here

Lincoln Square: It’s time for the 15th Annual Lycée French Market! On Saturday, November 16 (10 am to 5 pm) and Sunday, November 17 (10 am to 4 pm), local and French artisans will sell fine and decorative arts, home decor, jewelry, apparel, accessories, gourmet food, and more. There is also a Bistro, serving a delicious menu of authentic French recipes. The market has a $5 suggested donation for entry. Find more information here!

Logan Square: Logan Squarist is hosting their final Neighbor Meetup at The Logan Theatre on Friday, December 13! This is a Nightmare Before Christmas holiday party extravaganza! From 7 to 9 pm, get ready for the holidays with your neighbors. Put on your ugliest Christmas sweater for your chance to win the Ugly Sweater Contest. You can also take your skills to the next level and compete in the Nightmare Before Christmas Costume Contest. Each contest winner will receive a prize! You can also write Christmas cards for seniors or decorate a winter tree ornament. They will be collecting donations for Logan Squarists’s charity partner inner City Impact. Inner City Impact works with children and teens in urban areas by developing programs where kids can feel safe, be engaged in wholesome activities, build healthy relationships, expand their self-worth, and develop the life skills they need to move confidently toward a better future. Find more information about this awesome holiday event here!

Oak Park: Animal Care League’s Holiday Bazaar is back for its 34th year! From Friday December 6 to Sunday December 8, you’ll get all of your holiday decor needs covered and check off all the items on your Christmas shopping list- all while supporting a great cause! You can also participate in a basket raffle, eat festive baked goods, and drink delicious refreshments. All proceeds benefit ACL in their efforts to care for local homeless animals looking for a second chance. Find more information on the event’s Facebook page!

RACHEL HOOVLER & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

Restaurant Review – Sweet Virginia’s Kitchen

If you’ve been following this review, you already know that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I was thrilled to try a new breakfast place this week! Sweet Virginia’s Kitchen is located at 5131 N Damen Ave. You’re greeted by a large sign that says “We Feed You Like Family”. What a way to be welcomed! The inside is warm and charming. An article on the restaurant’s website says that the place is an homage to Chef Angie’s grandmother, Virginia. “The space at SVK reflects a nostalgia for good ole home cooking as well as the roots of SVK.” There are so many lovely atmospheric details. A vintage gramophone plays music while you peruse the menu. Up-cycled light fixtures warm the space and you take your seat on salvaged pews from a Chicago church. There is a mug wall, with hooks made out of Grandma Virginia’s spoons. The space was obviously very well thought out. You can find more details about the vintage touches here. They serve breakfast all day and have a small selection of lunch items available after 11 am. After much debate, I decided on the Eggs Foster: cheesy, broccoli scrambled eggs with tomato, green onion, and fresh cracked pepper, served on top of buttery toasted bagel bites. This was delicious! The portion was very generous- there must have been at least four eggs. I don’t normally love broccoli, but the combination with the green onion and tomato was very tasty. The bagel bites were awesome! The bagels were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and had been chopped into small pieces. My friend ordered the Biscuits and Gravy, which he said was delicious. Sweet Virginia’s is known for their donuts, so we knew we had to try at least one. The Fall Donuts are made-to-order hot donuts tossed in cinnamon and sugar. They were FANTASTIC. The outside had a lovely crisp to it and the inside was melt in your mouth. The cinnamon and sugar topping was perfect! I would love to order more of these on my next visit. 

Sweet Virginia’s Kitchen is open Thursdays through Sundays from 7 am to 4 pm. Breakfast is served all day and lunch is available after 11 am. They are available for catering and private rentals, which you can check out here.

RACHEL HOOVLER & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Immerse Yourself in the Forest

Those of us who love the outdoors know the stress relieving properties of spending several hours outdoors. Now, actual forest therapy is being practiced all around the world with amazing benefits to both mind and body.

Forest therapy comes from the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which literally translates to “forest bathing”. This is no quick hike through the woods. Forest therapy walks typically last 2-4 hours and are less than a mile. You immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the forest, paying attention to sounds, smells, and textures. Forest therapy walks are guided by a certified forest therapist who knows the language of the forest and will invite you to experience different things during the walk. Morton Arboretum (mortonarb.org) offers several different guided walks throughout November. 

Several studies have found that evergreens secrete a natural chemical known as phytoncide. It has been found to improve immune functions. In the late 1800s, physicians in Germany and the U.S. built sanatoriums in pine forests and all reported positive benefits. Mental performance and creativity can increase. One study found that participants performed 50% better on creative problem solving after 3 days wilderness backpacking. Stress hormones compromise your immune system, especially antiviral cells. Forest therapy has been shown to drastically reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Excess stress causes high blood pressure, headaches, skin conditions, asthma, and arthritis. 

Forest therapy gives you a chance to slow down and open your senses to the marvel of nature. To get the most benefits, forest therapy needs to become a regular practice- like yoga or meditation. You will develop a meaningful relationship with nature over time and through the changing of seasons. Open up your senses and connect with nature in a healing way. 

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

4 Things You Need To Know About Making An Offer

You’ve narrowed down your wish list, viewed many homes, and finally found your perfect fit. Time to take the leap and make an offer! This can be both incredibly intimidating and exponentially exciting. So how can you throw your hat into the ring with confidence? Here’s what you need to know to make an offer like a boss!

1. Determine Your Price Limit

Work with your agent to determine if the seller’s listing price is fair based on similar home sales in the area, interest in the home, time on the market, and more. Then, figure out the max offer price you are willing to reach that isn’t too financially taxing and settle on what your starting offer price will be.

2. Add Contingencies

Any home sale generally comes with a set of contingencies that must be met before it can be completed. These can include inspections, repairs, appraisals, and more. These need to be selected carefully, as an offer with too many may be less appealing to the seller.

3. Set Your Settlement Date

When you submit an offer, you must present a date to settle, generally about 60 days after the purchase agreement is signed. You want to give yourself enough time to meet your end of the contingencies, secure mortgage approval, finalize loan details, and more. If you are the responsible party for a delay, you may have to compensate the seller.

4. Prepare For A Counteroffer

You may be going up against other offers or the seller may negotiate, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time for a counteroffer. But this isn’t anything to stress about. Talk through the best strategies with your real estate agent.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – On the Road to Thanksgiving!

One down and two to go!  Now that October and Halloween are behind us, it’s time to focus on November and Thanksgiving.  Come join us as we travel down the road to Thanksgiving with these weekend events!!

The inaugural Taste of Donuts will be held at Morgan’s On Fulton (950 W. Fulton Market) in the West Loop this Saturday with two sessions (10 a.m.-12 p.m. & 1 p.m.-3 p.m.).  This event brings some of the best donut partners from around the Midwest.  Guests will have a chance to sample donuts from Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Chicago, and the surrounding suburbs.  Tons of coffee will be on hand to go with your donuts along with a photo booth, donut wall, and a ton of other fun stuff!  It’s the Midwest’s best donut fest not to be missed!!

The Arts of Life Studio (2010 W. Carroll Ave.) in the West Town neighborhood will be hosting it’s annual Charitable Chili Cook-Off this Saturday (5 p.m.-8 p.m.).  Come join them in celebrating 11 years of heartburn with 20+ meaty and meat-free samples of chili plus beer, Virtue Cider, and Black Dog Gelato!  This year’s celebrity judges are Doug Sohn (aka Hot Doug) and David Eigenberg (Chicago Fire).  Tunes will be provided by Pulaski Squares.  Gather some friends and your appetites for this community-building event!!

The 8th annual Southside Pie Challenge is being held at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (5480 S. Kenwood Ave.) in the Hyde Park neighborhood this Saturday (2 p.m.-5 p.m.).  This event is a juried amateur pie baking competition that thrills pie bakers and pie eaters alike.  Children’s activities, live music, and of course, a wide assortment of delicious pie for $4 per slice are featured!  And admission is free so you can have an extra slice of pie!!

The 40th annual Muertos de la Risa takes place this Saturday (2 p.m.-6:30 p.m.) at Dvorak Park (1119 W. Cullerton St.) in the Pilsen neighborhood.  This Day of the Dead Celebration is rooted in Mexican tradition and serves as a joyous occasion to celebrate life and honor the memory of loves ones that have passed away.  There will be face painting, art activities, performances, street-level ofrendas, and a community procession!  So wear your walking shoes, don your Muertos inspired attire, bring your own mobile ofrenda, and join in filling the neighborhood with joy and laughter!!

This Sunday, head over to Grant Park (337 E. Randolph St.) in The Loop for this year’s Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K/5K.  All participants will receive a super-sweet goodie bag featuring a navy full-zip fleece-lined jacket and a 15K or 5K official finishers medal to commemorate your race experience and awesome achievement!  They will serve up delicious dark chocolate that is both gluten and nut free.  And you don’t have to wait until the finish line to enjoy your chocolate since sweet stations with a variety of delectable goodies will be set up along the course!!

The River North neighborhood is the place to be for a new yearly event.  The Chicago International Tea Festival takes place this Saturday and Sunday at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza (350 N. Orleans St.).  Over 80 free tea tastings will be provided all day long by local Chicago area merchants, as well as vendors from all around the world.  There are also informative presentations, workshops, and lectures by nationally and internationally known experts to enhance your knowledge of everything tea!  Whether you’re a novice or expert tea aficionado, this event is designed for all!!

Hope to See You on the Road with Us!